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Ads that work so long as you don't think

The Obama campaign unveiled its first salvo against Mitt Romney's controversial private-sector background yesterday, an offensive the Republican campaign surely knew was coming eventually. This morning, the former governor released a two-minute clip in response, which had almost certainly been prepped and was ready to go.

The point of the video is to show three unemployed Iowans who are clearly struggling, and whom Romney hopes to use as proof the "Obama economy" not working. (Presumably, by this logic, if the president's economic policies were worthwhile, unemployment would be zero percent, and Republicans wouldn't be able to find anyone who could appear on camera.)

There's nothing to connect the president to the plight of the individuals in the video -- unlike, say, the plight of those who got laid off because Romney's vulture capital firm threw them out of work -- but we're supposed to blame Obama anyway. What's more, there's nothing in the clip to explain why these struggling folks would be better off under a Romney administration that intends to cut taxes for the wealthy while slashing public investments that benefit working families, but we're probably not supposed to think too much about that, either.

What's more, as Jamelle Bouie explained, What stands out about this video is that the Romney campaign has moved away from acknowledging any roots to the crisis, which would require a nod to the previous, Republican president, and treating the Great Recession as a random event -- like a bad hurricane or tornado -- for which no one is responsible. In this narrative, the GOP didn't mismanage the economy into the deepest downturn since the Great Depression. Rather, the economic crisis simply happened, ex nihilo, and Obama did nothing to stop or mitigate it."

Romney's video, in other words, is powerful just so long as you have a very short memory, no understanding of current events, and no interest in the candidates' backgrounds, platforms, or ideas.

Romney's target demographic, in other words, is uninformed amnesiacs.

But there's another catch: the Republican's video highlights a closed Frigidaire plant. In 2012, Frigidaire is ... hiring.

Greg Sargent explained that Frigidaire, which is owned by Electrolux, first started the process of shifting manufacturing jobs to Mexico in 2006, which, if memory serves, predates Obama's election. Blaming the president for Bush-era economic trends isn't just foolish; it's dishonest.

But complicating the story further is that Romney would have voters believe Obama deserves blame for an Electrolux plant closing, but doesn't deserve credit for an Electrolux plant opening.

...Electrolux is actually adding more jobs in the United States now than were lost in Webster City. The company is building a plant in Tennessee to manufacture cooking products, and it's expected to add 1,200 jobs.

The rub, though, is that this new plant, which is shipping jobs here from Canada, is being built in part because of incentives created by city, county and state government, [Caryn Klebba, a spokesperson for Electrolux] confirms -- exactly the sort of government "picking winners and losers" that Romney likes to decry. Obama, by contrast, favors this sort of use of government resources to create American jobs.

The Romney campaign assumes, probably correctly, that relevant details and facts will go completely unnoticed by voters. We're supposed to see three people who got laid off in Iowa, assume that they weren't laid off by Bain Capital, and blame Obama for the fact that they're struggling. Don't think too much and the video has a certain child-like logic -- Obama's the president; unemployment is still high; so it's best to replace the president.

I imagine Republicans could have run similar attacks in 1936: highlight people unemployed because of the Great Depression, tell voters to blame FDR, and hope Americans don't remember Hoover.

But outside of uninformed amnesiacs, it's not clear why the mainstream should take misleading videos like these seriously.